The company claims that the engine could be used to send supporting materials ahead of the manned mission in cargo ships that could travel more slowly.But the technology can also be used on artificial satellites to maintain its stable orbit.
The new thruster uses solid fuel and electricity in a manner reminiscent of a welding machine. Welding machines have a cathode (negative) in the form of welding electrode and an anode (positive) usually in the form of a clamshell that will prey on the part that will be welded.
When the tip of the electrode approaches the piece closes arcing because the electric field is strong enough to pull electrons of the molecules of air making jumping sparks. The bow makes the electricity flow through electrode pulling your atoms flow through plasma into the piece, making the weld.
The new engine works exactly the same way. With the difference that the atoms are not deposited on the piece to form a weld, but launched into space providing thrust, i.e. pushing the motor in the opposite direction.
The fuel is a metallic bar, company has tested various metals including vanadium, magnesium, titanium, bismuth, molybdenum, and still doing other tests in search of better fuel.
The anode is a hollow cylinder axis-aligned with the cathode slightly shifted to the front to facilitate the formation of the arc.
As soon as the power is turned on-the motor operates with a voltage of 250 volts, the plasma formed in little dots on the surface of the cathode, which is eroded with the extracted material being accelerated by a vacuum chamber and ejected at high-speed.
Still no prevision of a new engine test in space. In laboratory tests, the new world record Ionic engine specific impulse which belonged to a NASA engine called Hipep (High Power Electric Propulsion).